About the Book
The Shattered Pillars is the second book of Bear’s The Eternal Sky trilogy and the sequel to Range of Ghosts. Set in a world drawn from our own great Asian Steppes, this saga of magic, politics and war sets Re-Temur, the exiled heir to the great Khagan and his friend Sarmarkar, a Wizard of Tsarepheth, against dark forces determined to conquer all the great Empires along the Celedon Road.
Elizabeth Bear is an astonishing writer, whose prose draws you into strange and wonderful worlds, and makes you care deeply about the people and the stories she tells. The world of The Eternal Sky is broadly and deeply created—her award-nominated novella, “Bone and Jewel Creatures” is also set there.
This book was sent for me to review by the publisher.
Before I actually review this book, I should make a note for any potential readers. If you haven’t read Range of Ghosts, or are fuzzy on the details, then you really should put this book on hold until you’ve reacquainted yourself. One of the side effects of my cancer treatment is memory issues. I thought I’d read the first book and remembered enough details, but the cancer monster struck and there were a number of points in the book where I found myself confused and wishing I’d done a re-read before I had continued on with Shattered Pillars.
Everything Bear introduces in Range of Ghosts is expanded upon in Shattered Pillars. The world building is absolutely epic in every sense of the word, and that epic scope just becomes grander in this installment in the series. Everything gains a bit more depth and dimension. Bear is no longer introducing readers to her world; she’s immersing them in it. Readers won’t just marvel over the unique vision that Bear presents them, they will revel in it. The cultures, nuances and small details will creep into your soul until you feel like you are part of her creation. That’s a true gift.
The world isn’t the only thing that is expanded upon. The plot grows along with the world, gaining depth and dimension, as well as some strong emotional appeal. Side plots, which I usually find to be glossed over or lacking in second installments of series, are just as poignant, memorable and compelling as the main storylines. Everything has its place and Bear makes it all fit together neatly, so neatly, in fact, that readers might occasionally forget just how sprawling and massive both the world and the intricate plot really are.
Due to the fact that this second book expands quite a bit on the foundation the first book sets, it’s to be expected that characters will be revisited. However, some of the seemingly secondary characters from Range of Ghosts have more important roles in Shattered Pillars, and readers will spend more time with them, while some primary characters, like Temur, have a bit less time in the limelight. While this was beneficial, in my opinion, as it did help with the overall epic feel to the book itself, I can see where some readers might lament the slight reversal of spotlight time with some characters.
As always, Bear’s fluid prose is worth noting. In fact, her incredible talent with writing is one of the reasons she’s one of my all time favorite authors. However, in Range of Ghosts, as with Shattered Pillars, she never sacrifices pace, plot, or development to show off her literary flair. Somehow she manages to work both together perfectly. She can be incredibly, astoundingly detailed, without derailing the pace in the least and when she needs to reign in to get things going, she’s not afraid to do so. That’s one of the things that makes Bear such an exceptional author. She knows when enough is enough, and isn’t afraid to stomp out what’s unnecessary. This gives her overall storytelling a very measured, appealing feel. Everything happens in its time and proper place.
Shattered Pillars is the second book in a series. Normally second books seem to lack a little something that the first and third books contain. They lack a little “umph,” if you will. Second books have a feel that they are bridging the gap between when two very hardcore things are happening. Rest assured, dear reader, Bear has not let her second book fall into that trap. As with everything else, Bear has measured her plot, timed her events, expanded her world and created an even more epic and sprawling installment that makes Range of Ghosts pale in comparison. This might be the first time I’ve ever actually admitted that this second book in a series is perhaps the best second book in a series I’ve ever read, precisely because it doesn’t feel like a second book in a series.
Elizabeth Bear is one of my all time favorite authors, and I could go on for days about all the qualities in her books that set her apart from everyone else, but I really don’t need to. Bear makes her own case for her grandness with this series. Range of Ghosts will hook you. Shattered Pillars will blow you away. Bear is an author to watch. She redefines genre and blows convention out of the water. Epic truly is epic in her hands and this series is one stunning showcase of incredible, formidable skill.